White House changes tune on double-dip

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House officials are using a new set of talking points to sell their stimulus plan: The economy’s possible slide into a second recession.

During the summer, officials denied a double-dip recession was on the horizon. But yesterday and today, President Barack Obama and his deputies said the $447 billion jobs-stimulus bill is needed to prevent a “double-dip recession.”

“There is no doubt that the economy is weaker now than it was at the beginning of the year,” Obama said in his Oct. 6 press conference. By passing the jobs bill, he said, “we are taking out an insurance policy against a possible double-dip recession.”

That’s a 90-degree shift from his June press conference, when he said, ”I’m not concerned about a double-dip recession … [although] we’re experiencing some headwinds, gas prices probably being most prominent.”

In August, administration officials were still poo-pooing talk of a double-dip.

“We do not believe that there is a threat there of a double-dip recession,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Aug. 3. “We believe that the economy will continue to grow.”

The summer’s talking-point has since been junked, as more economists predict an actual shrinkage of the economy and the arrival of a second recession.

Friday, following the president’s Thursday statement, Gene Sperling, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, also used the threat of another recession to spur passage of the jobs-stimulus bill. “We ought to be acting, passing the American Jobs Act, first as an insurance policy against a double-dip recession … but also as a way to make this recovery take hold,” he said in an MSNBC interview.

When he was asked at the Oct. 7 press conference about the president’s new double-dip argument, Carney backpedaled. “We do not believe it will happen,” he said, before adding that “there is no question that the economy has slowed and job creation has slowed … it is obvious to everyone that we need to take action.”

Republicans oppose what they see as massive government spending and increased federal debt in the stimulus plan.

The president’s tactic would add the GOP’s opposition to the stimulus policy to the list of factors that Obama already blames for the economic crisis.

“The combination of a Japanese tsunami, the Arab Spring — which drove up gas prices — and, most prominently, Europe, I think, has gotten businesses and consumers very nervous,” Obama said Oct. 7. “And we did not help here in Washington with the debt ceiling debacle that took place — a bit of game-playing that was completely unnecessary, completely unprecedented in terms of how we dealt with our responsibilities here in Washington.”

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